How Well Do You Know Your Clients' Business?

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A relatively new client of ours has been full of praise since we won its business. We nailed its branding. Got a standing ovation when we presented its new logo, and identity system. And received a second standing ovation three weeks later when we presented its marketing campaign.

Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
In the agency business, it doesn't get much better than that. Everyone who works on this client's business has been walking on air. Feelin' good about themselves. Fist pumping each other. It was loving us; we were loving it. It was one of those great times in the agency business when a lot of hard work just kept paying off. But somehow, I just knew the honeymoon couldn't last. I mean, how do you top two standing O's?

Sure enough, the honeymoon didn't last. Soon after the ovations, we got an urgent call from the client, who expressed serious concerns. Turns out, upper management LOVED everything we were creating, but they didn't feel we 'got' their brand.


Yep, we were doing great work with the big picture stuff, but nuances were getting in the way. Certain phrases in ad copy were signaling a disconnect. "Does our agency understand our business?" That's what they were thinking. And it was really frustrating, because we were the CREATORS of the brand! Of course we knew it! It was a real head's up for our shop in many ways.

My takeaway?
  1. Live at your client's offices for a while. We did during the research phase, then went back to our offices to execute. The more you live with your client, the more you can speak its language and express it effectively to its customers and prospects.
  2. No matter how well you think you know your client's brand, it's probably not good enough. Be a student of its industry. And make sure every member of the agency team, from advertising to public relations to interactive and direct, is equally marinated. We all know that, but it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day.
  3. Take nothing for granted. Set up an honest relationship, with open lines of communication. While we were fist-pumping each other, our clients were scratching their heads. Always be proactive in asking how you're doing for them.
  4. Demand access to the senior management of the company for key presentations -- especially during the early stages of a relationship. We had been asking for it, but hadn't been getting it. Ideas were taken out of context, and there was no agency representative there to defend the work.
  5. Always let your clients know how much you care.
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